MOLINE, IL – Last night the Quad City Mallards wore Star Wars Storm Trooper-themed jerseys which were auctioned after the game for charity. The Wichita Thunder played the role of the underdog rebels and took a 3-2 overtime win. The Thunder spoiled the Mallards’ final game of a seven game homestand, and a chance for the Mallards to gain in the playoff race.
The Mallards got off to a great start. Just 50 seconds into the game, Kale Kerbashian was called for slashing. Vladimir Nikiforov scored on the ensuing power play to put the Mallards up 1-0. The goal was set up by a nice pass from Olivier Archambault, and Nikiforov used his speed to get behind a defenseman.
At the 3:43 mark, Raphael Bussieres was called for tripping. During the penalty kill, Matt Carey then forced a turnover near the blue line and sprung Matt Neal for a breakaway. He converted to give the Mallards a 2-0 lead.
After two of the Mallards’ first five shots hit the net, they shot more like Storm Troopers the rest of the way. The key missed chances were a pair of 5-on-3 power plays that the Mallards failed to convert. The first was a full two minutes of 5-on-3 time at the end of the first period and beginning of the second period. They did get six shots during the power play but Thunder goalie Adrien Lemay turned them away.
At the 13:28 mark of the second period, Donnie Harris was called for high-sticking, and then at 14:28 Dan Milan was called for hooking. This gave the Mallards nearly a full minute of 5-on-3 time, but again Lemay was excellent. During the three minutes of power play time Lemay made five saves.
Meanwhile, Domenic Alberga had helped the Thunder tie the game 2-2 by scoring two goals. The first was at 12:30 of the first period and was assisted by Ian Lowe. The second was 6:25 into the second period, and was assisted by Michael Neal and Milan.
Another parallel plotline was physical play and fighting between the two teams. Fifteen minutes into the first period Kenton Miller was called for roughing and Matt Carey was called for holding, During the stoppage Raphael Bussieres and Milan had a fight. Bussieres seemed to have the upper hand and got the takedown. At 9:52 of the second period Anthony Collins and Martin Nemcik also fought. It was a fairly short fight and was broken up before either player was taken down.
After all of that action in the first two periods, the third period had no penalties and no goals. The Thunder controlled most of it, getting 14 shots while holding the Mallards to six shots. Mallards’ goalie P.J. Musico made a few excellent saves to send the game to overtime. The overtime was very short. Former Mallard Miles Koules scored just 25 seconds in to give the Thunder the win. Koules told the Quad City Times about returning to play the Mallards as a visitor: “I knew it was coming, and I was a little nervous for it. Obviously, it worked out in a way I dreamed of.”
After the game, the jersey auction raised $24,000 for charity. Mike Monfredo’s jersey sold for $1,300, which was the highest amount of any single jersey.
The standings point did pull the Mallards to within three of the final playoff spot, due to the Tulsa Oilers losing to the Evansville Icemen. Next, the Mallards have to play the Icemen themselves in the first game of a six game road trip on Wednesday.